Robert Williams Buchanan.

A marriage by capture; a romance of to-day online

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a peasant woman, and barefooted. She
was singularly handsome, with bright
golden hair, pale complexion, and large
grey eyes; but her expression was bold
and reckless, that of a woman who
had lost the freshness and innocence
of youth.

" Sorra drop more you'll have this
morning," said the girl. "You're
drunk enough already."

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A HABBIAGE BY CAPITJBK

" Hould your tongue, Mary !** cried
one of the men, John Carey, the land-
lord of the inn,

"And FU not hould my tongue,
father, so long as I see Mr. Patrick
drinking his sinse away and you look*
ing on," cried the girl, leaning against
the lintel of the door and folding her
arms defiantly. " Spake to the gintle-
man civilly, Mr. Patrick. Maybe he's
here for your good."

Blake laughed loudly, and winked
at the lawyer.

" Sit down, Mary acushla, and don't
be a fool !" he said ; then, squaring his
chin, and looking at Langford, " Well,
fire away ! What is it ?"

" In the first place," said Langford,
"I warn you that Captain Kennedy
and the police are after you and will be
here immediately."

A murmur ran round the room.

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"So that's it, is it?" cried Blake.
" It was mighty polite of you to come
and tell me. And what may the police
want with me, may I ask?"

" You are suspected, rightly or
wrongly, of having something to do
with the disappearance of your cousin.
Miss Catherine Power. It is well
known that you attacked her on a
former occasion, and that youVe more
than once threatened her life."

The young man's face went white
with rage and terror, and he uttered a
savage oath.

" Take care what you say, Mr. Lang-
ford," said the lawyer. " Mr. Blake is
my client, and your language is ac-
tionable."

" He knows that I speak the truth,"
answered Langford, sternly.

" I know this, Philip Langford," said
Blake, leaning over the table and look-

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ing fiercely into his face, " that you^re
what you always have been, a meddler
and a fool. Put that in your pipe and
smoke it ! As for my cousin, she got
what she deserves, since she came be-
tween me and my birthright ! Yes —

by , my birthright ! And if she's

dead, as they say, what then? The
more fool she ! I offered to make her
Mrs. Blake, and to share the estates
with her, and she showed me the door.
Then you came creeping after her, bad
luck to you, but more power to her, she
sent you to the right-about after me !
She'd sense enough for that, any way !"

Throughout this tirade, Langford
retained his self-control, but his face
grew paler and there was a dangerous
look in his dark eyes.

He was about to speak again, when
the tramp of feet was heard in the
kitchen, and Captain Kennedy, fol-

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A MARRIAGE BY CAPTURE.

lowed by two policemen carrying their
muskets, entered the room. A cry
went up from the men, but Mary Carey
remained silent, still leaning against
the lintel of the door, and watching
the face of Patrick Blake.

** You're here before us, Mr. Lang-
ford," said Kennedy. "Well, what
has Mr. Blake to say for himself?"

"You'd better question him," an-
swered Langford, quietly.

" Clear the room, John Carey," said
Kennedy to the landlord, "and take
your daughter with you. Be handy,
though, for I may want you."

"I shall remain with my client,"
said the lawyer. "You know me,
Captain Kennedy — Peter Linnie, at-
torney, of Castlebar."

"Yes, I know you well enough,"
answered the officer, with a shrug of
the shoulders.

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The men had slunk out of the room,
but the girl remained moveless.

"Now, then, my girl," said Ken-
nedy, " you can't stop here. Out you
go!"

"What are you going to do?" she
demanded, raising her voice. " Are
you going to arrest him, a gintleman
born?"

" That's our business."

" No, it's mine ! I dare ye to lay a
finger on him, and I'll stay where I
am!"

Kennedy signalled to the constables,
who were about to eject the girl by
gentle force, when Father John O'Don-
nell entered the room, and, fixing his
eyes upon her, cried —

" Is it you, Mary Carey, that would
come between a murderer and the law ?
Down on your knees, woman, and
thank the Lord ye're not whipt through

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County Mayo at the cart's tail, as they
used to whip women of your kind long
ago. I've spoken to your priest, and
he tells me that 'tis a year now since
ye came to confession, and by the same
token, it's many an ugly sin ye have to
hide."

" Get out, Mary," exclaimed Blake.
" It's all right ! I'll talk to them !"

More cowed by the priest's invective
than by the armed forces of the law,
Mary retreated, saying as she went, —

"Tell them nothing, Mr. Patrick!
I'd let the tongue blister in my mouth
before I'd spake a word !"

The constables closed the door and
stood guarding it.

" Now, then, Mr. Blake," said Ken-
nedy, sitting down, " I want to ask you
a few questions. If you can answer
them satisfactorily, so much the better
for you, but I warn you, in the first

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A MARRIAGE BY CAPTURE.

place, that anything you say will be
used against you."

"I've nothing to say except one
thing," answered Blake,

"Welir

" That ril be even before long with
him that gave information against me ;"
and he glared fiercely at Langford.

Kennedy smiled.

" You're wrong there, my man. Mr.
Langford has nothing to do with the
matter. We've had an eye on your
doings for a long time, and needed no
informer to tell us what you were."

"All the same, I'll be even with
him," muttered Blake.

" Now, then, where were you yester-
day?"

"Here, and down along the river,
salmon fishing," replied Blake, sul-
lenly.

"All day?"

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" All day. Michael Conolly was with
me, you can ask him."

Kennedy made an entry in his note-
book.

" Just before sunset, Miss Power left
Newport on her way to Ballyveeny.
About seven o'clock, according to the
car-driver's evidence, she was passing
the stone bridge, when armed men
attacked the car. They must have
been waiting there for some hours, for
we found empty whisky bottles on the
grass below the bridge."

" What's all this to me ?" demanded
Blake.

"You'll see. Where were you be-
tween six and seven ?"

" Drinking in this room with Michael
Conolly and John Carey. If you'll
ask them, they'll tell you I was blind
drunk. Mary Carey can tell you the



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Kennedy looked at Langford, who
shrugged his shoulders, but the priest,
who had been listening excitedly to the
conversation, now interposed.

" Patrick Blake, as you've a soul to
be saved, speak the truth ! Down on
your knees, and ask forgiveness of the
God youVe offended. Our hearts are
aching — ^set them at rest ! What have
ye done with the poor young lady?
Tell the . truth, and save your soul !
It's I myself will plead for mercy for
ye, if you really and truly repent, and
make confession."

"I've nothing to confess," snarled
Blake, " so you only waste your breath."

" Three months ago. Miss Power was
attacked by a masked man," said Ken-
nedy, quietly. " She escaped, leaving
the mark of her riding-whip upon his
face. I had a warrant to arrest you
then, and I've got it in my pocket" .
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"Why didn't you execute it?" de-
manded the young man, with a sneer ;
but, although his manner remained full
of bravado, he was clearly cowed by
the officer's statement.

"Because Miss Power herself en-
treated us to pass the matter over.
She had recognised her assailant, but
didn't wish to have him punished."

" That was very kind of her," said
Blake, leering at the attorney. " May-
be she'd her reasons."

" Silence !" exclaimed Father O'Don-
nell. "Speak of that angel with re-
spect, or my stick and your skull will
be better acquainted !"

"Wheesht, your reverence!" said
Kennedy. " Now, Mr. Blake, listen to
me. Miss Power has disappeared, and
it is evident she has met with foul play.
The only man who ever threatened her
with violence, and the man who at
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A MARRIAGE BY CAPTURE.

least on one occasion actually attacked
her, is the man who had the greatest
interest in her death. That man is
yourself. Under these circumstances,
Tm going to arrest you."

Blake sprang up and rushed to the
window.

"You*d better take it easy/' said
the officer, smiling, while the heads
of two more policemen appeared out-
side. " Shall I handcuff you, or will
you come civilly like a gentleman, as
you are.*'

Blake decided to come civilly, and
was led from the room in the custody
of the two constables. As he swag-
gered past Langford, he hissed be-
tween his teeth —

" you ! Don't forget what I've

promised you."

One by one the men were called in
and questioned. They all supported

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Blake's statement, that he had spent
the previous day in their neighbour-
hood, fishing in the river and drinking
at the inn.

"Do you think they are speaking
the truth?" asked Langford, ner-
vously.

" No, sir," answered Kennedy. " I'm
sure they're lying. They're Blake's
creatures, and, in my opinion, his ac-
complices. John Carey is the greatest
scoundrel unhung, and ConoUy is not
much better. Now we'll have in the
girl, and see if we can get anything
out of her."

With set teeth and flashing eyes,
Mary Carey bounded into the room,
and folding her arms defiantly faced
the oflicer. Even then she looked
singularly handsome.

"Now, Mary machree," said Ken-
nedy, good-humouredly, "I'm sure

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A MAEBIAGE BY CAPTURE.

you're a sensible girl and don't want
to cause trouble. Perhaps you don't
quite realise yet that this may be a
hanging business, and I shouldn't like
to think such a pretty colleen as you
was concerned in it. I know you're
very fond of Mr. Blake, of course, and
it's natural enough, for he's a fine,
bold, upstanding gentleman, but "

" Who told you I was fond of him ?"
asked the girl, with a toss of the head.

" Sure, we all know it, darling, and
we don't blame you. But come now,
tell the truth and shame the devil,
like an honest colleen, as I'm sure you
are."

"I'll tell you nothing," said Mary,
setting her lips together.

"Don't say that now, for it's un-
worthy of you. Some day you'll be
getting married, and I'd like to dance
at your wedding."

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A MARRIAGE BY CAPTURE.

She gave a short, mocking laugh,

" There's more than me that thought
of marryin', maybe/* she said, "and
yet it didn't come off."

" Meaning Miss Power ?" asked the
Captain. **Well, now, Mary, they're
saying that young Mr. Blake was mad
with love for her, and clean lost his
head when she refused to be his wife."

" He never wanted her," said Mary,
flushing angrily. **If he ever went
afther her at all at all, it was because
he wanted her money, which was his
by rights."

"And when he couldn't get either
the lady or the money, he swore to be
revenged !" observed Kennedy.

"I don't know what that is," re-
turned Mary. **A11 I know is that
she's got what she worked for, and
won't cause any more trouble."

"But, come now,'^ said Kennedy,

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A MARRIAGE BY CAPTURE.

persuasively, "isn't it a puzzle what
has happened to her ? Not a trace of
her can we find, though we Ve dragged
the river from the bridge down to the
sea/*

"Then ye'd better drag the say it-
self,'* cried the girl with a laugh.
" Maybe it's there ye'U find her."

Langford trembled, and a horrified
exclamation escaped from the priest,
but Kennedy remained quite cool.

" Mr. Blake tells me he was here all
yesterday, and all last night," he said.

"If Mr. Blake says that same it's
true."

"Was he in your company?"

"You'd better ask him," was the
curt answer.

"Mind what you're saying," said
the oflicer, with sudden sternness. " If
you're not careful you may put the rope
round your lover's neck, for there's

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A MARRIAGE BY CAPTURE.

been murder done, and it's a hanging
business.**

Not the least disconcerted by the
statement, Mary looked full in the offi-
cer's face and made this significant re-
ply—

"Sure, how can there be murder
when ye can't prove that anybody's
kilt ? When ye find the body 'twill be
time to talk." And she walked coolly
out of the room.

Kennedy looked perplexed.

"You heard that?" he said, turning
to Langford, " I'm sure now that that
girl knows everything, but torture it-
self would never get a word out of her.
I can't arrest her on mere suspicion,
but I shall keep a sharp eye on her
while Blake is in custody."

They found Blake outside the inn,
guarded by the police* He had re-
gained all his coolness, and was ex-

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A MABSIAGE BY CAPTUBE,

changing rough jests with his captors
and with his savage acquaintances who
clustered near the door.

"Keep your heart up, Mr. Patrick!"
cried Carey, as the prisoner took his
place on the car. " Sure we*ll all stand
by you.'*

Blake nodded and beckoned to Mary,
who stood at the inn door, her lips
trembling and her eyes full of tears.
She ran up to the car, holding out her
hands.

" Mind what I told you V^ said Blake,
mysteriously.

The girl nodded and wrung his hand.

The police car drove off amidst dead
silence, but when Langford mounted
his horse to follow there was a general
groan.

"The blackguards!" cried Father
John, standing up on his car and shak-
ing his fist. "Never heed them, sir.

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A MAEBIAGE BY CAPTUBE.

There's a rope round the neck of every
one of them."

As he spoke, the driver cracked his
whip and the horse started off, nearly
projecting the priest into the road, but
while the group at the inn door laughed
derisively he clung to the rail and seated
himself with as much dignity as was
possible under the circumstances.

As Langford prepared to follow,
Mary Carey ran up to his horse's side
and placed her hand upon the bridle.

" Bad luck to ye for this day's work !"
she said. " It's me and mine that will
remember it, even if Mr. Patrick for-
gets !"

Scarcely raising his eyes he shook
the bridle from her hand and rode
slowly away, the very incarnation of
misery and despair.



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CHAPTER IIL

TT is necessary, now, to trace the
-*- course of certain extraordinary
events which had taken place pre-
viously to the final disappearance of
the heroine of this true story.

Miss Catherine Power was the most
popular lady in the whole of the county
of Mayo. She possessed three stepping
stones to popularity : she was beautiful,
wealthy, and unmarried.

When it was rumoured that she was
coming to Newport to take possession
of the property which had been most
unexpectedly left to her, it was gener-
ally predicted that the local gentry

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A MARRIAGE BY CAPTURE.

would receive her with open arms. It
was something, indeed, in that wild
district, to be the lucky possessor of
Castle Craig, with a rent roll of several
thousands a year. But when the young
lady appeared personally upon the
scene the money became a secondary
consideration altogether. It had been
expected, yet not one could tell exactly
why, that the unknown heiress would
be a mature lady of goodly propor-
tions, with a keen eye, an aggressive
nose, and a purse-proud, haughty air.
Miss Power, however, was but three
and twenty years of age, had a tall,
slim figure, a finely formed head and
face, and the grace of a lady to the
manner born. Her hair was jet black,
her skin fair as a lily, her eyebrows
dark, and her eyes of a deep violet
blue*

Whether she smiled or frowned, or

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A MARRIAGE BY CAPTURE.

gazed with that dreamy look which
her face so often wore, Catherine
Power never for a moment lost the
fatal power of fascination which was
destined to prove her bane.

By one and all this power of hers
was felt. The men might shrug their
shoulders at the thought of meeting
the popular heiress of Castle Craig,
the angry mammas might sneer, the
jealous maidens rail, but once they
were introduced into the lady's pres-
ence they succumbed as all before had
done, and laid their allegiance at her
feet. In a word, she came like a queen
to her own, and reigned absolute.

In addition to her wealth, her beauty,
and her single-blessedness, she had two
other supreme gifts to win the hearts
of the Irish gentry — she danced like a
sylph, and she sat her horse like an
angel.

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A MARRIAGE BY CAPTURE.

Little or nothing was known of her
antecedents, except that she had been
brought up in England, where her
parents had died, leaving her a small
fortune, quite enough for a single
young lady to subsist upon. Then
came the announcement of her acces-
sion to the Mayo estates, which was
closely followed by her appearance at
Castle Craig, where for many days she
kept open house, receiving the calls
and congratulations of the gentry and
tenantry.

Before long the whole of the county
was ringing with the echoes of her
name, and the local newspapers thought
it their duty to chronicle her comings
and goings, as if she were an offshoot
of royalty. Suitors swarmed about
her like bees about a sugar-bowl, but
the dreamy young lady, conscious of
her worth, merely smiled to herself

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A MAREIAGE BY CAPTUBE.

and dismissed them one and all with a
polite but decided " no."

Whether or not society was distaste-
ful to her no one could tell; but the
fact remains that she showed a curious
love of solitude, and was in the habit
of taking lonely walks, rides, and drives
in the most dreary parts in the district.

Her groom was by no means aston-
ished, therefore, when, one dark au-
tumn day. Miss Power ordered her
favourite horse to be saddled, and can-
tered away from the Castle without
escort of any kind. She felt in the
mood for a good long ride that day;
so she galloped to Westport, a distance
of fifteen miles, and having executed
some commissions, started again for
home.

It was a fresh though cloudy after-
noon, the wind was blowing briskly
from the sea, and as the horse's hoofs

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clattered on the road the eyes of the
fair rider sparkled, her cheeks flushed,
and her lips parted to drink in the
breath of the salt bracing air. When
she had covered some twelve miles of
the homeward way, and had reached
the outskirts of the Castle Wood, she
reined in her steaming horse and
trotted along a bridle-path which
skirted the woods, and cut off two
miles of the road.

She had been trotting thus for about
ten minutes when she heard a rustling
among the trees, and a man dressed as
a peasant, but wearing a crape mask,
rushed from the shelter of the woods
and seized her bridle-rein.

The horse reared furiously, but the
lady kept her seat, and raising her
riding-whip brought it down sharply
right across the ruffian's face. At this
unexpected attack he fell back, while

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A MAEEIAGE BY CAPTUEE.

Miss Power, applying both spur and
whip to her frightened horse, made him
bound forward and gallop furiously in
the direction of the Castle.

When Miss Power dismounted at
her own door her face was pale, and
her fair form was still trembling from
the fright of the recent adventure, but
alighting from her horse she handed
the reins to the groom and said quietly :

"Leave the stabling of Wildfire to
some one else to-night, Cormick; I
want you to ride over to Mulrany.
Make haste, and when you are ready,
send in for a note from me."

Then she entered the house, and
going direct to her boudoir sat down
and wrote as follows :

" To Sergeant Flynn, — ^Kindly send
me at once an armed patrol. I want
the Castle to be guarded night and

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A MAEEIAGE BY CAPTUEE.

day — at least for a time. As I was
riding to-day I was molested by a
peasant in a crape mask who seized
my horse's bridle. It will be as well
for me, therefore, to have police pro-
tection. I dine this evening at Cladich
Castle, and should like to be attended.
" Catherine Power."



Having sent this letter down to her
groom, the lady entered her drawing-
room and played absently on the piano.
An hour later she went to her dressing-
room to put herself under the hands
of her maid. As she sat before the
great cheval glass, apparently gazing
at her own image and smiling at what
she saw, she was in reality gazing at the
mysterious figure which had stopped
her on the road, and smiling at the
fright which it had given her.

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Jl mabriage by captube.

" Heigho," she thought, ^' it seems to
me that money does not bring much
happiness. The life of an heiress is
devoted to warding off robbery in one
shape or another. They are all thieves,
only they carry on their trade in a dif-
ferent fashion. Most of them would
marry me first and rob me afterwards,
but this poor fool was evidently under
the impression that I carried my for-
tune in my pocket, and was determined
to dispossess me of it at one fell blow.
I did well, I think, to send for the
police. The ruflian, whoever he is,
will be frightened at any rate."

While she was musing thus, her
maid's hands were busy. There was
to be a big dance that night at Lord
Portaclare's place, a fine old mansion
situated midway between Newport and
Westport, and Miss Power was to be
the belle of the evening. And a belle

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A MABEIAGE BY CAPTUEE.

indeed she seemed when her toilette
was completed. She wore a ball dress
of white satin, with diamonds in her
hair, red roses on her bosom, and brace-
lets of gold filagree on her shapely
arms.

There was a knock at the door, and
a voice said :

"Captain Kennedy is below, miss,
waiting to see you."

She gave one glance at herself in the
glass, sprinkled some scent upon her
lace handkerchief, and descended to
the drawing-room, where she found the
polite captain.

" I was at the barracks when your
note arrived. Miss Power, so I thought
rd come over myself. Tve brought
two of the constabulary along with
me."

" Thank you. Captain Kennedy."

"This is a strange affair entirely,"

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A MABEIAGE BY CAPTURE.

continued the officer. "Have you
any idea who it was that attacked
you?"

"Not the slightest," answered the
lady, with a smile.

"Do you think he was a common
robber?"

" It certainly looked like it."

" It was lucky you kept your pres-
ence of mind, miss," said Kennedy,
with an admiring look. " How was it
you escaped scot free ?"

" Well, the whole affair was so sud-
den that I hardly know what happened.
The moment the man seized my bridle.
Wildfire reared, and then, instinctively,
I laid my whip across the man's cheek,
and before he could recover himself I
was off and away."

The inspector looked puzzled and
very serious.

"I'd like to ask you one question,

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A MAREIAGE BY CAPTUEE.

Miss Power," he said, after a pause.
" Have you ever been threatened ?"

She looked uneasy, but answered
without hesitation—

" Yes, once."

" Do you know who threatened you ?"

'^Perfectly, but I would rather not
mention his name at present."

"As you please, miss," said Ken-
nedy, a little surprised, " only, if you
gave us some clue, we shouldn't be
working quite so much in the dark."

" I have particular reasons for saying
nothing at present," remarked Miss
Power, "only I think it prudent to
protect myself from any attacks in the
future."

When Catherine descended the stairs
she found her carriage, with a mounted
policeman on either side of it, awaiting
her at the door. Thus escorted, she
started for Cladich Castle.

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' ,M»«( sr.».iift)-v^>iti»'-<.



** Miss Power," he said, after a pause, "have you
ever been threatened ?"



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A MAEEIAGE BY CAPTUEE.

When the lady arrived at her desti-
nation escorted in so unusual a man^
ner, everybody was on tenter-hooks to
know what it all meant. Not a whis-
per of the adventure had as yet got
abroad, but the groom had dropped a


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Online LibraryRobert Williams BuchananA marriage by capture; a romance of to-day → online text (page 2 of 7)